Clive Hetherington, Area Director at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking tells us about the recovery of the financial sector, programs that can help you secure business lending and his enduring support for Tranmere Rovers.
Hello Clive, tell us about Lloyds Commercial Banking and your role as Area Director
As Head of Area, I lead the Mid Markets team of Lloyds Bank across the South West. We work closely with more than 300 companies who have turnover in excess of £25M. My teams operate from offices in Bristol, Taunton, Exeter and Plymouth. We work closely with colleagues who support SME clients and really do try to provide a service which will help businesses prosper and grow. I have been in my current role for over 11 years and really love it!
I also hold the rather grandly titled role of ‘Group Regional Ambassador’ for the South West, which means I lead Lloyds Banking Group’s interactions with local and regional politicians, media and relevant stakeholders. A key element of those interactions centres around the Group’s Helping Britain Prosper Plan and how we bring that to life locally.
The South West is an important region for the Group, highlighted by the diversity of the businesses operating within it; everything from tourism to manufacturing. With approximately 10% of Lloyds Banking Group’s employees based in the region it’s a tremendous privilege, and responsibility, to act as a spokesperson for those colleagues working tirelessly to support that diverse set of businesses.
How has the current economic climate affected your activities?
Quite a lot! Clearly it’s been a difficult period for the entire financial services sector and rebuilding customer trust has been and continues to be at the heart of our efforts.
From an internal perspective, the financial crisis meant we had to focus on the issues that mattered to us. Lloyds Bank is focussed on the UK, and supporting UK businesses has remained our priority throughout the recession. Following the merger with HBOS the Government took a minority shareholding in the Group and we are very proud that they have now started to sell their shareholding at a profit for the taxpayer.
The economic climate has also had obvious impact on all of our customers. As a relationship bank that seeks to build longstanding banking relationships, our strategy has been all about supporting our customers throughout the business cycle. In 2013 the industry’s overall lending to businesses actually fell by 4% but at Lloyds Bank we were able to increase lending by 5%
What challenges are you facing over the next 12 months?
Demand for loans and overdrafts from customers are still well below where we would like to see it. Conversely, liquidity within UK Corporates continues to rise suggesting companies are continuing to stock-pile cash. We are seeing an upturn in economic activity and we are very much open for business.
Do you think that the government is doing enough to support you and your sector?
The Government has taken several steps in light of current economic conditions including introducing several lending schemes which we have endorsed and taken part in wholeheartedly.
As the largest participant in the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS), we have committed £37 billion of gross new lending to UK businesses and homebuyers, including £7.5 billion to our SME customers. In Q4 2013 alone we grew our FLS lending by £4.2 billion.
The Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) scheme is a well-received government initiative designed to help businesses get access to finance. We are one of the most active EFG lenders, by the end of 2013 we had offered almost 6,000 EFG loans, worth more than £480 million: 25% of all loans granted through the scheme so far.
Finally the Group has committed £50 million to Big Society Capital, another initiative which aims to help create a sustainable social investment in the UKs burgeoning recovery.
These schemes give you a flavour of the type of support the Government is providing to our sector and we welcome the opportunity to work with them further.
What is your view on the South West business scene?
The South West is a great place to do business and we are very fortunate to have some fantastic companies in the region. We are not over reliant on any one sector and I believe the economy is well balanced. We haven’t been exempt from the economic malaise but as mentioned I do see signs that confidence is returning.
We also benefit from one of the strongest and most capable professional communities in the UK. Accounting and law firms in the region are a match for anywhere else in the UK and there is never a need to look to London for help and guidance
Do you have any Non-Executive Directorships? If so, what have you learned from the experience?
I don’t have any formal NED roles but I am a Trustee at the RWA (The Royal West of England Academy), an iconic art institution based from a beautiful building in Clifton. The RWA is far more than just an art gallery and the biggest challenge for the Board is to ensure that the people of Bristol (and indeed the South West) use and support what is one of only four “Royal Academies” in the UK. In terms of learning, the key lesson is how difficult it is to generate day to day cashflow, an issue for all charities.
I also sit on the Regional Board of BiTC (Business in the Community) which seeks to bring together business and charities and helps companies integrate responsible business practice through a range of programmes and services
Do you have any advice that you’d pass on to a newly appointed company director?
Be bold and go for it! There are a myriad of opportunities opening up for companies as we move into better economic conditions. Funding is definitely available and regular and honest communication with your bank will always yield dividends.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I am married with two daughters: one a first year student at Birmingham University and the other just starting out in HR after graduation, so they keep me busy. Aside from watching out for them, I also watch out for a poorly performing football team named Tranmere Rovers where I am a (very minor) shareholder! I originate from the Wirral and do enjoy regular trips back up north to see my family and watch football. That said; I regard the South West very much as home now.
I am also passionate about old cars and enjoy driving in the Mendips whenever the weather allows.
Who is your hero/personal inspiration?
Enzo Ferrari who started his eponymous business at the age of 50 and remained a power throughout his life.
What is on your I-Pod and what are you reading right now?
I’m a bit of a prog rocker so most likely to be a bit of Genesis/Pink Floyd although I did buy the new Pharrell Williams CD as I really like his “Happy” track! I am rereading a book called “Replay” by Ken Grimwood which I love and poses the question of what you would do in life if you could relive it knowing what you know now!
What has been your experience of working with Moon Consulting?
Moon Consulting are always professional and knowledgeable. Vanessa has built a very capable team who have in depth knowledge of who’s who in South West Business